Should everyone have to donate their organs?

by Paul0014 on September 8, 2013 - 11:35pm


The article “The Ethics of Opt Out Organs,” by Carwyn Hooper, is about the ethical issues surrounding an “opt out” system of organ donation.  Hooper begins the article by presenting a brief history of organ transplantation and then goes on to say that the supply of organs for transplantation has not kept up with the increasing demand; indeed there is a severe shortage.  Then he talks about the different policies countries use to increase the number of donors.  The three schemes he presents are the “opt in” policy, which requires people actively add their name to the organ donation register if they want to donate, the “opt out” policy, which sees all citizens’ names put on the organ donation register and requires all citizens who don’t want to donate their organs to remove their name, and the “mandated choice” policy, which forces all new drivers declare whether they want to donate or not in order to get their driver’s licence.  Hooper then goes on to discuss how the Welsh Assembly approved an “opt out” policy and examines the arguments on either side of the debate.  He says that defenders of this new system believe it augments the chance that people will have their wishes granted after they die.  He then says that the people against the system believe that it results in a higher proportion of donors being citizens who did not want to donate but did not get a chance to remove themselves from the organ donation registry.  The problem with this is that it’s hard to justify removing organs from those opposed to donation as being worse than failing to remove organs from those in favor.  Hooper then goes on to conclude the article by talking about how this new “opt out” system will affect the Welsh in regards to their relationship with the English.


There are a few competing ethical principles on either side of this debate.  Supporting the “opt out” policy are the principles of the right to life and the greater good.  Supporters of the new policy believed that all patients waiting for an organ to save their lives have a right to live.  They believe that “opt in” was wrong because it condemns many of those patients to death.  By switching policies, more people in need will receive organs, upholding their right to life.  The principle of the greater good can be applied in this way too.  By switching from “opt in” to “opt out,” Wales has expanded the number of potential organ donors.  Although some of them may not have wanted their organs to be donated, one unwilling donor could save multiple lives; this is the greater good in the eyes of the supporters of the “opt out” policy.  Those opposed to this policy cite the ethical principle of freedom of choice.  It is part of a person’s freedom of choice as a human to decide whether they want to donate their organs after they die.  Opponents of the new scheme know that there are many factors involved in getting a name put on the organ donation registry in the “opt in” system and these same factors may obstruct getting a name taken off the organ donation register in an “opt out” system.  They fear that many of the organs donated under the new system will come from unwilling donors, which they see as a violation of the freedom of choice.  


Personally, I feel that the arguments for the “opt out” system are stronger than those against.  Although it is next to impossible to rank ethical principles, in this case I feel that the right to life outweighs the freedom of choice.  Human instinct is geared toward survival, and I believe that we should do everything in our power to ensure the survival of others.


Which side of the debate are you on?


Hello Paul0014

I really enjoyed your summary on Carwyn Hopper’s article “The Ethics of Opt Out Organs”. Being that I’m a Humanity for Science student, this topic is one that I can share with my class. It involves both thematic ideas of human rights as well as those of technology in the field of today’s health system.
However, we do not share the same opinion on the subject. You take a very consequentialist approach to answer why we should donate our organs. Basically, you want the greater good for everybody, for everybody to live.
My opinion looks at this ethical issue from a different angle. Sometimes people do not have a choice to refuse organ donation due to their religious beliefs. They too might also want everyone to live. I believe that people should have a choice when it comes to organ donation. This approach is deontological because that the act of forcefully making someone donate his or her organs is fundamentally wrong being that it goes against the Declaration of Human Rights.
If your main concern as to why everybody should donate his or her organs is because you believe this will preserve the human race, I would see otherwise. I’m pretty sure a meteorite would wipe out our population before not having enough organs to donate will.
Your summary is beautifully written and your opinion is not wrong! I just wanted to share mine with you. This is an excellent debate and thank you for sharing it with us.

I see your point. However, you must understand that the "opt out" policy does not force people to donate their organs in the same way that the "opt in" policy does not force people to keep their organs. Under the "opt out" policy, people who do not want their organs to be donated, or who can not have their organs donated because of religious reasons, simply have to make their opinion known and take the necessary steps to have their name removed from the organ donation register. So the "opt out" policy does not violate the Declaration of Human Rights.

I believe that my personal opinion would have to be a bit of a hybrid between Anthony's view and Paul's. The consequences of having organ donations increase have very visible positive aspects. Organ shortages cause roughly eighteen deaths every day, meaning that over sixty-five hundred people die annually due to these shortages. Although this number is barely anything when compared to the world's population, it is still a great number of people that could have been saved if better organ donation legislature was in place. Anthony definitely has a point about the refusal to donate organs under religious reasons, however I believe that if someone is neutral or is in favor of donating their organs they definitely should. A very interesting subject that also has to do with this is subject is illegal organ trafficking because although it can save lives, it is done illegally using, at times, very disturbing methods.

I enjoyed your description of each side of the debate and the values you included to support the different opinions. However, I would have a different opinion about this issue, as I personally think that freedom of choice is more important. Indeed, everyone is born free, with their own body. In the same way we have the right to control our body; we can decide what happens to it when we die. No one can give themselves the right to decide to remove organs from an unwilling person. I think that more focus should be put on research and new technologies that will improve our health system, instead of violating freedom of choice. It is true that everyone has the right to live, but is it not also true that they have the right to decide what happens to their bodies even after death? I think that the opinions differ in this debate, as each person has a different set of values that make them agree with one position more than another. However, in my opinion, we should also consider human rights as being fundamental.

I think that the opt out system would be best. In general, only 1.3 percent of the people that die have viable organs (Pierre Marsolais MD, frcpc), and out of that 1.3 percent, not all of them are organ donors. There could be many people who just didn`t bother to opt in because either way, they didn`t care and this has allowed many people to die because of the lack in organ donors. In the opt out system, if people REALLY do NOT want to donate their organs, they will go through any process to ensure that they aren`t listed as organ donors. So although I value people`s freedom of choice, I believe that if someone was against something happening to them after their death, much like their wills, they have to ensure their choice is known.

I would like to say that I was drawn to your article because it was an interesting subject that brought up information that I wasn’t aware of. In addition, this news summary was very clear and represented the two sides of the argument well. Organ donation is an issue that often passes under the radar, but one that is very important in potentially saving many lives. This “opt out” policy permits exactly that. I agree with you that the greater good, in this situation, is an ethical principle that prevails over the value of freedom. I believe that if a person feels strongly enough about not wanting to donate his/her organs after dying, then they will take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening. The supply of organs is, as you mentioned, experiencing shortages, and this new policy is a way of countering that. Many people, with the “opt in” policy, maybe didn’t make the time to register as a donor, and therefore missing a chance to save a life. By giving the possibility to “opt out”, individual rights are not violated, and therefore, I think that the benefits from this new policy outweigh the consequences people might see in it.
With that said, it would be interesting to know the percentages of the population that are for, against, or indifferent to organ donation. Does such a ratio exist, and does it support the “opt out” policy?